A technical attack on the Met’s music director

A technical attack on the Met’s music director


norman lebrecht

August 16, 2019

An anonymous maven* on Facebook and Youtube has issue a video challenging the vocal expertise of Yannick Nézet-Séguin and accusing him of ruining young voices.

Much as we deplore shadows who attack famous people from behind a screen, some points here may be worth addressing.

* Maven is an ironic US-Yiddish term for someone who thinks he know everything.


  • SDG says:

    What on earth is a maven?

  • James says:

    This hatchet job suffers from a seemingly irrational hatred for Nezet-Seguin and of modern life, and a willful misunderstanding of what he is saying at the beginning of the video. He’s not saying that the low register is ALWAYS weak – I’m no singer, but it’s obvious that he’s arguing that singers should try to not sing every note with the same volume and to use register to influence phrasing.

    It is patently ridiculous to suggest that Nezet-Seguin has not heard singers from before 20-30 years ago. It is also absurd to suggest that there has not been anything worth changing in vocal technique or in opera in general in the last 50 years. Cherry-picking one moment where Nezet-Seguin suggests a more breathy sound and extrapolating that to mean that he wants singers to be inaudible is so childish and immature as to render this entire video useless, even for a dilettante like myself.

    In essence, this person disagreed with certain aspects of Nezet-Seguin’s coaching, and then created a caricature out of him, projecting onto him all that the creator of this video hates about modern singing. It’s a shame that this person holds so much anger – if they didn’t, perhaps they would spend less time throwing stones and making grandiose and laughable accusations against a great artist, and much more time listening to the singers they claim to love so much. Instead, he/she uses them as a cudgel against modernity, the passage of time, and the progress of art.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Not at all. If NS wanted more variety in the vocal volume, using the different registers, je could have said so. But he refers to some ‘tradition’ or custom’, which is criticized. It is also possible that NS merely was clumsy or unthinking in his formulations.

      And besides: in art, there is no progress. It is a wide-spread misundertanding, a mental infection. In science there is progress, and sometimes in poilitics. In art, there is change, and quality goes up and down according to circumstances and availabilities of means and different developments of technique. If there were progress in the arts, as something which is some kind of historic inevitable force (a is implied in the comment), then Rembrandt, Velasquez, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. etc. have been improved upon by Picasso, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Boulez, Xenakis, Friedrich Haas (yes, him), and John Cage.

  • BillOxford says:

    Mr Nézet-Séguin is, presumably, an excellent conductor (given his position) but only experienced singers with a consistent (i.e., lengthy) record of healthy singing should even consider giving singers masterclasses. I humbly suggest that Mr Nézet-Séguin should stick to teaching conducting.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed. Conductors should give master classes on conducting, or general musical interpretaion, not singing technique.

      • Aura Amorosa says:

        Despite the grandiosity of certain masters and the humiliation involved, master- classes are essential to the experience and career development of young singers. The exposure, the test for endurance under scathing scrutiny, and in public. You come out of it knowing better if it’s the path for you. Gulp!

      • John Russell Voice Teacher says:

        Conductors can be truly great operatic rôle coaches in a Master Class setting; and very exciting for singers in discovering the intricacies and nuances and the beauty of the vocal repertoire. They can suggest a dynamic hairpin here and to bring out the text more pointedly there, etc.; and all the musical elements eg: tempo and dynamics that are tradition in a specific rôle. These classes are wonderful. Very few times have I ever heard voice technique as more than a suggested-aside remark from a conductor, including in this instance.
        I think NS is a breath of musical fresh air and energy and fearlessness on the podium, which is a great start to a successful tenure!

    • Ms.Melody says:

      La Traviata under his baton was terrible. The orchestra played with two kinds of sound-loud and louder. Singers could not be heard from the middle of the house half of the time, they were drowned by the orchestra. Perhaps, he is not quite ready for masterclasses of any kind yet.

  • John Borstlap says:

    A devastating critique…. and ALL is true, and NS is caught with trousers down. But the critique is also focussing on Italian opera, which is indeed about singing, including the low register of soprano. For some operas, such full-blooded singing is inappropriate, like Debussy’s Pelléas en Mélisande, or Martinu’s Juliette.

  • Nick says:

    As far as Come scoglio is concerned there dues seem to be some truth in part of the allegation made against Nezet Seguin. I have compared recordings with Bartoli, Fleming, Garanca, Berganza, Te Kanawa, Roschmann in the Barenboim DVD and others. All place a lot of emphasis on the chest voice at the start of the aria.

  • Mike says:

    I agree with Yannick and completely disagree with the points in this video. These days conductors of opera don’t get enough say in the vocal side of the production.

  • From Virginia says:

    Callas would slap him off the stage – Does he know he conducts opera in a 4000 seat house with a full size orchestra? Stick to the orchestra and leave the singers alone or do opera movies with mics and singers with no true opera voice

  • db says:

    So James Levine is making angry youtube videos with his spare time.

    Mystery solved.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    His predecessor knew absolutely zero.

  • Nijinsky says:

    What is one supposed to say about this? I don’t think either one gets it right, not the guy on the video, not the music director of the met.

    I would say that I know really of only one famous Soprano singing such roles currently on the stage that does it right, but I’m not going to mention her to start a bunch of bickering, and she’s one of the top, but not the most paid, and doesn’t jump at every opportunity either.

    If you smile, for example, and let your whole body meld into that, you’ll notice that your upper palate raises, you breath properly, and you can’t chest breath. It’s from there that you can gently start to open the voice and that you learn to support, and from there come the floating high notes and the relaxed chest sound in the lower notes. That’s also where the strength comes from, NOT from straining the voice or forcing anything.

    In the example, Tebaldi is for me the only one that gets it right, completely.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is much singing around nowadays which is based upon force and volume (lots of physical training and muscle work), and less on timbre which can carry the sound as well and often even better with much less physical effort. I have seen / heard sopranos who, without any effort, could fill a hall purely with their timbre, the vibrations of which make the auditorium resound like a large sound box. I don’t know how they do it, but it does exist.

      Example: the Panamese/Dutch soprano Marianne Blok:



      • Nijinsky says:

        HEH! I know her, had forgotten about her. I don’t think I’ve thought about her, or remembered her for all the intervening years. I accompanied some of her students. Good to hear her voice. YES! That is a voice that isn’t forced.

        Boy, that brings back memories, mostly good ones, even as messed up as I was then and not even crazy yet to realize life is about something else, entirely. She’s a very fun, and very decent person, too.

        And YES! That’s exactly the kind of singing I’m talking about. I should have mentioned Elly Ameling, because she sings completely without strain. You can hear the chest voice without any strain, push or the rest of it.

        The whole ENTIRE opera world could learn from her simple unpretentious offer.

        So wonderful.







        Boy that makes me happy, and to cry too, to hear Elly.

        I was into talking to spirits through a medium, and I asked Jesus “disciple,” John twice apparently whether she knew Jesus (I don’t know why I brought it up), and he said the same twice that she was Klopas wife. Not a very imaginative guy. And I had to bring it up to John that Jesus perhaps could have had a better life. In case you don’t know it, John was one of the disciples that chastised Judas driving him crazy when he didn’t understand something. THEN already taking Jesus teachings and putting a harshness to it that corrupted it. I have to add that John did tell me that (at the end of his life) he had taken the gentle teachings and given them harsh comparison’s they weren’t meant to have. But he DIDN’T tell me the whole affair with Judas while Jesus was still alive. Judas told me that himself (and actually said they knew that what they said and how they said it hurt), he apparently was Da Vinci, and he was still quite frustrated that they didn’t want to change the story (I was thinking of an Opera about Jesus where you put the resurrection before the Crucifixion so that it’s not necessary for people to see they don’t really die but are spirit, an energy field that the body comes from rather than the other way around)…

        As old stories gone by go….

        I’m just rattling on, sort of, you don’t have to believe any of it.

        • Nijinsky says:

          By the way, this of course isn’t really something to post on a blog like this, about what would be called a past lifetime, if time were linear, which it isn’t. It actually can’t be if anything (light, subatomic particles) moved at a speed where time stops that’s a wave pattern, because it would resonate with other wave patterns moving at a speed where time stopped, and that would make time architectural rather than linear. And so we enter forever as we blossom into time’s architecture beyond linear time.

          But anyhow, I should have let Elly know myself, but I only ran into her out of nowhere in passing, oh 1, 2, 3, 4… four times (the past maybe 25 years). And I simply didn’t think of it.

          Sorry if I’m posting stuff that should be kept at a personal level. But I think that if Emily knew Jesus it speaks for the purity of what she does. You see?

      • nijinsky says:

        Upon waking, I listened to Elly Ameling, and cried and cried.

        How unreserved to bring out everything in the music, and not strain a note, but liberate it.

    • Raven says:

      I’m sorry, i do think tebaldi is a goddess myself, but that thing about the sorriso… She was fiercely against it. That is not where you get streght, i mean… Gedda… She strongly speaks, just as callas, for the chest voice, and against mosquitos in opera. (sorry about english)

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Great video. I hope Yannick watches it and learns. The problem today is that we propel too many young conductors into positions they haven’t really earned. They didn’t “pay their dues” so to speak. In the past, most conductors came up through the opera house serving as a repetitur, then assistant conductor then conductor – took years, but damn, they knew their business from the ground up. No anymore. So many conductors don’t know the traditions, don’t know correct style, no nothing about the composer or the music – it’s sad really. And they make so much money. Look at all the maestros/maestras out there today; there’s not a Karajan, Bernstein, Reiner, Koussevitsky, Monteux, Boult, Barbirolli, Cluytens, Mitropoulos or Beecham among them. Thank god for recordings to remind of what was once common.

    • Charles Brink says:

      My gosh that is rediculous.. clear one doesn’t have to know much to poat comments…. everything was better in the old days….. absolute crap

      • John Borstlap says:

        No, in general there is less remarkable conducting around, which is not a matter of talent or technique, but of personality. The modern world does not inspire cultivation of the inner resources which lay at the heart of superb music making – everything has been turned outwards and the music business forces performers to conform to its values.

        • Giovanni Antonini
          Ivor Bolton — hear his Mozart
          Constantinos Carydis
          Riccardo Chailly
          William Christie
          Stéphane Denève — hear his Berlioz
          Gustavo Dudamel
          Ádám Fischer
          Tomáš Hanus
          Manfred Honeck
          Vladimir Jurowski
          Michele Mariotti — hear his Rossini
          Riccardo Muti — hear his Verdi
          Ryusuke Numajiri
          Kirill Petrenko
          Mikhail Pletnev — hear his Tchaikovsky
          David Robertson — hear his Ravel
          Christian Thielemann — hear his Strauss

    • Monsoon says:

      Most of the conductors of yesteryear had incredibly narrow repertoire and avoided music with complex rhythms.

      Just look at Karajan’s complete DG recordings — 3 complete Beethoven cycles and not one recording of Messiaen, Ives, Copland, and Britten.

      Today’s conductors would never make a career out of only conducting Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky.

      • Novagerio says:

        Monsoon: Karajan made legendarian recordings of Stravinsky (listen to his Sacre), Schönberg, Berg, Webern and he even conducted Henze and Penderecki.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      The current conductors are just fine. The issue is that in Britain/US the conductors come up via conducting symphony orchestras rather than operas orchestras. So they often don’t understand issues to do with singing. But have a much better idea of orchestral sound.

      Rattle and Nezet-Seguin are two particular examples who have come up via this route.

  • Jerry says:

    Which points might be worth addressing?

  • Monsoon says:

    I saw him conduct “Dialogues of the Carmelites” at the Met last season. While the orchestra and singers sounded great, he might as well been conducting another opera. Throughout it he’d hammer the downbeat thinking that the orchestra was going to play the next note ff, but it was actual p. And then vice versa.

    At the end with the guillotine sound effect, he had this big gesture for each time the blade comes down. He kept coming in early — and his big gestures made it obvious — and one of the times he did his big gesture there was no guillotine at all. After that mistake, he toned things down.

  • Tony says:

    This channel is part of Jeremy Silver’s circle if not himself. But I can assure you it’s his modus operandi. He is a lunatic and failed singer from the USA who lives (or lived) in Florida and was part of the cult of a disciple of Douglas Stanley in NYC, a notorious voice wrecker from the 50s who wrote a book about singing with the larynx low in a fixed position (trying to imitate Del Monaco’s sound) . He screams and thinks that’s singing. Completely delusional. He believe he holds the Holy Grail, the “true” technique, and attack established professionals and voice teachers with results to show they will never achieve in his whole life – on or out of stage. Just listen to the videos of the pathetic loser on YouTube in his channel “Silver Singing Method”, the way he makes his students vocalize. And in case you want to give him back his share of hatred, if you dig the internet, you may find even some mugshots made by Florida Police Department on 04/07/2011… Well, those who used to participate in a forum for singers (NFCS), now extinct by Taptalk, know very well who is this “personaggio”. The group migrated to Facebook. I’m sure you can have more information about him there. He and other fanatics were also responsible for the end of the Classical Singer magazines forum.

  • Henry Rosen says:

    You really have to draw people’s attention to this Norm? Really?

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    When it comes to singers he is not quite Sir George Solti, is he? When it comes to purely orchestral work, I have found him too loud with Philadelphia Orchestra last year. It is a pity because he had created a good impression on me when I first heard him, before his career took off.

  • sam says:

    The author is at his/her weakest in the needless ad hominem attacks on Nézet-Séguin.

    The author is strongest in the video evidence of Callas giving, and demonstrating, the exact opposite advice that Nézet-Séguin gives.

    But then again, Callas did completely ruin her voice by her 40s. (A few doctors have advanced a posthumous theory that Callas suffered a tissue disease that ruined her vocal chords. There is no clinical or biopsy proof of their theory, and few experts adhere to it.)

    So, who’s ultimately correct, Nézet-Séguin (a nonsinger) or Callas who sang spectacularly but completely ruined her voice?

    Perhaps it is not a technical issue at all, but a career one: If Mephistopheles appeared before you and said, I will give you an amazing career of 10 to 15 years, but in return, I will take your vocal chords by age 40, I think more than a few opera singers would be more than willing to make that deal with the devil.

  • jamesay says:

    Why give credence to “anonymous”?

  • Piefon says:

    This particular YouTube channel has been attacking pretty much every single modern opera singer and conductor for almost a year and a half, producing practically several videos a week fawning over “old singers” (very propre, versatile, with beautiful voices…), and abhoring modern singers, (“fake, “vulgar”, “ugly”, “imposters”).

    Simply by looking at the titles to say nothing of the content, full of absolutes (A Tenor’s Voice, and every other voice, should be CLEAR and DARK!) and enlightened technical wisdom – it’s clear we are face to face with a very bitter and nostalgic troll with an abundant amount of time on their hands to make utterly clickbaity videos.

  • Piefon says:

    Then again, (regardless of their opinions) this person is clearly bringing up a very problematic point in terms of Singing and how it is taught in Conservatories. Teachers rarely have real scientific knowledge of the vocal anatomy, and thus, in order to teach, they resort to abstract images to describe the singing experience ( a cloud over your head, “swallowing” the sound, singing with your cheek bones,…), relying on the traditions of vocal teaching, teaching what they’ve been taught because it worked for them.

    Problem is, this may or may not feel the same for someone else because everyone’s experiences and everyone’s body is unique, thus subjective. And thus, the students on whom the teacher’s verbal imagery and metaphors didn’t work just don’t have the “talent” according to them. (Whereas things could be done for those students if given the right tools). It’s a shame.

    See the Estill Vocal Model – I haven’t seen any other pedagogy actually researching the vocal anatomy…

    Disclaimer : I’m a cellist, and a particularly horrible singer, so I obviously don’t know very much about this topic, (other than the fact that I do work in pretty great opera orchestra)…

  • justsaying says:

    The “This is opera” poster is often rude, sometimes gets details wrong, exaggerates his points, misses others – but he is almost always right, and in this case spot-on. The advice given at the start of the video (both about the Mozart aria and the Verdi) is scandalously ignorant and actually damaging. Never mind the Met – Juilliard, where they are supposed to understand technique, should be ashamed and alarmed.

    • 16VA says:

      No, the ‘this is opera’ channel is produced by a crank whose own ‘career’ in opera never took place.

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      I don’t know about today, but in the early ’80s, Manhattan School of Music had a superior voice department to Juilliard’s.

      • Stuart says:

        You know why I turn down occasional invitations to perform? Because I know that people like you are in every audience.

  • Eric says:

    SInce when are Youtube contributors “shadows”. Are famous people only allowed to be commented on by other famous people? In this case he/she is spot-on: YNS clearly knows nothing about chest voice, or in the case of most modern singers, its absence, which is why no one can hear Kaufmann at the rear of the hall. Pappano is just as clueless as another clip shows. And the voices have already been damaged by inadequate technique, so YNS is hardly “ruining” them.

  • Mark Atwood says:

    The title should read:
    “A complete hack of a YouTube channel with no credibility challenges one of the top conductors of the world.“

  • AndrewB says:

    I came across the ‘this is opera’ videos by accident on you tube one day. I tried to read up about who produced them and the suggestion was that they are produced by a group of people. This may be true as sometimes two or three new videos appear in the same week and it must take time to find and insert all the examples.
    At their best they can provoke discussion about opera as an art form where the main vector for the drama and emotion is the singing voice. I am the first to love a new , challenging , well put together and thought out operatic /theatrical production, but perhaps the time had come to discuss and compare standards of singing and practices in the 21 century in contrast with those of an earlier recording era where some of the artists had been coached by the composers. Aesthetics in singing have changed- but why, how and what has been achieved?
    I think the ‘this is opera’ videos reflect a passion for the voice, but do overstep the mark occasionally when it comes to targeting/ mocking specific singers some of whom had lengthy, distinguished careers which certainly weren’t built on a lack of voice .
    There is a great deal of talk about ‘coordinated chest register’ and registers in general.
    I can remember when I sat the singing teaching diploma as part of my studies that talk of registers was considered taboo, although it was ok to talk about passagio or transition notes in the voice.
    Funnily enough I believe that if these terms are coming back into classical singing vocabulary it may be due in part to certain approaches and techniques used for teaching music theatre and pop students with an emphasis on the feel / attempt to control certain cartilages etc consciously while singing.
    Earlier generations of singers have expressed how grateful they were to conductors for giving their time and taking them through their roles- I am thinking of Lotte Lehmann , Christa Ludwig etc.
    However it is true that not all conductors ( or producers) are vocally aware enough to explain the effect they would like to achieve, even if they know clearly what they would like to hear or see in their heads.Therefore they leave it to the singer to resolve the question and produce the result – the singer may be able to discuss it with their coach or more likely in these days of less and less rehearsals ( cost cutting) have to implement their own solution on the spot.
    In the case of students their limitations as they develop their voices mean that suggestions have to be given very carefully I would say.
    Surely we would all like to hear well balanced, even voices in the opera house with great low , middle and high notes that sail across the orchestra pit audibly without any strain, allowing the singers to focus on the vocal and physical expression of their characters.
    The ‘ This is opera’ videos have provoked a lot of comments on you tube – both positive and negative, but perhaps the time is ripe for further, fuller discussions about the voice with all those involved professionally in opera?

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      I guess I’m lucky to have had a teacher who was trained by Aksel Schotz, and no one else, and I let my voice develop both naturally, and by listening acoustically, letting it ring and produce the maximum of overtones, while doing NOTHING in my throat. Singing is about undoing. Singer try, develop bad habits that teachers have to undo, unlearn, so they can sing intuitively. You can feel the space of the room, you automatically take enough breath, you just have to keep it moving, keep a clear, open channel for it and don’t interfere. The hard part, that must be studied and learned is diction and transitioning from one vowel to another. Singers get in trouble with transitions, with tension, with improper placement, and bad coaching or teaching.

  • justsaying says:

    [edited – if the moderator could kindly substitute this for the earlier submission]

    The “This is opera” poster is often rude, sometimes gets details mixed up, exaggerates some points, neglects others – but his basic arguments are almost always right. And in this case, spot-on. The advice given by Yannick N-S at the start of the video (both about the Mozart aria and the Verdi) is scandalously ignorant, and actually damaging. What, “come scoglio” written in a weak part of the voice? Only if the singer doesn’t know how to do it – which YNS seems explicitly to advocate.

    This is really bad. Never mind the Met – Juilliard, where they are supposed to understand technique, should be ashamed and alarmed.

  • Caravaggio says:

    That YN-S is a conductor (and no great one) and certainly no singer, it is strange (to put it mildly) to see him teach a singing masterclass. Maybe it’s one of those trendy, post-modern, cross-pollination (translation: diluted) efforts.

  • Patrick says:

    Sorry….his first point makes sense to me. Don’t need to agree with everything anyone says, even if they’re an “expert”. However, I’d listen to his opinion over some anonymous YouTuber any day.

  • Jay Bee says:

    YNS has no knowledge vis-à-vis of the human voice. So he should keep his claptrap shut. This video is spot on… And YNS is not the only one ruining voices.

    All this new technique of homogeneous sound from top to bottom without any colours is quite ugly and unfortunately is now the standard operatic sound.

    • Emil says:

      Your second sentence contradicts your first. YNS, in fact, in this video, suggests following the vocal line instead of looking for homogeneity at any price.

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      I can think of a great singer whose tone was so fully colored, so even from top to bottom that you couldn’t tell if he was going up or down, it was just so fantastic. That said, there is something for the excitement in going up or in going down.

  • Sleepy Soprano says:

    His name is Jeremy Silver. He claims to have been a student on Lo Monaco. He’s emotionally disturbed. And he’s got a past drunk driving arrest in Florida.

    He likes to get his kicks anonymously bashing those who have careers online. He has no career.

    Giving this whack job a platform is lower than even you usually go, Normie.

    • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

      He may be disturbed, and he may be a drunk driver, but he has extraordinarily good knowledge of how the voice works.

      • Actual opera singer says:

        No, he really doesn’t. And that’s clearly why he has no career. What this conductor is telling these students is good advice, for their young vocal development. You can’t just jump in at a huge operatic voice. That’s just not how the body develops. This Jeremy Silver, might have learned the first, basic lessons of opera- so to fellow hacks, he sounds believable. But there’s another 10 lessons for him to go. Anyone who has actually made it to the stage is shaking their head and chuckling at his sad lack of knowledge.

        • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

          Oh! Sure, you can’t just jump in and sound huge, no doubt about that. And you can certainly cause lots of trouble for yourself if you try to make any part of your voice sound louder than it naturally is. I agree with you there. (I myself retarded my progress for a long time because some of the singers I love most — Josef Greindl, Ezio Pinza, Gustav Neidlinger, Jon Vickers, Matti Salminen, Richard Tucker, for instance — have huge voices and no matter how often I told myself don’t try to imitate them or sound weighty, I kept trying subconsciously. Very bad!) So you’re right about that (IMHO).

          But this is kind of off the point. When I said he knows how the voice works, I meant that he knows the anatomy, and how it affects the physics (acoustics), and I was basing this on the large number of his other videos I have watched. I wasn’t speaking directly to the question of whether or not this particular woman is trying too hard to make her low notes sound big. I think I’d have to hear her in person in order to determine that.

          And in any case, to try to argue (as the person I was replying to did) that Mister Opera’s criminal record or psychiatric condition somehow precludes him from being right about a technical point of vocal pedagogy, or is a reason why Norman shouldn’t link to his YouTube video, is beyond stupid; philosophers have a name for that, the “ad hominem fallacy”.

    • Novagerio says:

      Sleepy Soprano: Who is Lo Monaco? Or do you actually mean Del Monaco? And wich one? The great tenor or his brothers Marcello and Alberto?

    • FintoStanislau says:

      It’s 5 of his skype pupils who manage the channel/page. I’m guessing the former “Mister Opera” is the Canadian.

  • Baritonesa says:

    Well… they have a point. These days we have crooners instead of Opera singers and we can blame clueless maestros like Séguin.

    • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

      Right you are. We have Papageno-sized voices trying to sing Hans Sachs and Prince Ivan Khovansky, and we have Barbarina-sized voices trying to sing Isolde and Lady Macbeth.

  • Emil says:

    Not sure if it gets better (I don’t have the energy to watch the whole thing) but the first point made by the author of the video is solid nonsense. One can disagree with the interpretation suggested by Nézet-Séguin, but does anyone seriously suggest that the lower register of the average soprano is weaker than the top? As I understand it, Nézet-Séguin is suggesting that the vocal line should guide interpretation more than evenness at all costs – a sensible point, no?

  • Stuart says:

    Much as we deplore shadows who attack famous people from behind a screen, some points here may be worth addressing.

    It seems as if you do not deplore it enough. Which points? Addressed by…?

  • Stuart says:

    I’m not sure why you gave this garbage a forum on your site. Anonymous – utter cowardice. A piece by an unemployed self-proclaimed expert who lives in the past. Fire away,

  • Alviano says:

    I can’t think of any other conductor who inspires such relentless carping. YNS would have a much better press, on this forum and elsewhere, if he weren’t openly gay.

  • Petros LInardos says:

    Can someone explain what the job of a conductor is when working with singers? How is a conductor qualified to teach singing technique to a singer?

    • justsaying says:

      actually a conductor CAN teach singing if she or he has learned the basics of it and has a knack for analyzing the difference between what the singer is doing and what might work better. It’s not necessary to be a professional-level singer to do this (and that option, remember, is not even open to most musicians, because you also have to have something in your throat that most people just don’t have). It IS necessary, though, to learn enough about the physiology of singing and enough about its traditions and history to make your way intelligently through a lot of difficult issues and to help the singer sort out confusions. And in my opinion it’s necessary to be able to sing at least decently with the amount of voice you have (even if it isn’t enough to aspire to “real singing.”) I think it’s fair to say that the old-style conducting apprenticeship – accompanying singers at the piano, assisting older conductors in a busy theater, singing the parts of any absent cast members – was likelier to put conductors on the path to this kind of knowledge.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Yes, I agree. There are few reperteur jobs for young conductors in the Anglo-Saxon world. Instead, most conductors start with a symphony orchestra and hence don’t learn much about singing before standing in front of a major opera house.

  • Laurence says:

    “Much as we deplore…”. You obviously don’t deplore hypocrisy!

  • Charles Brink says:

    Why are u, Mr. Lebrecht, giving time and space to this obviously mean spirited, pretentious criticism by this “maven”? Do you agree with him/her? You find the “maven” ‘s cherry picking intelligent? The “maven” obviously has a bone to pick with him. It also betrays the rather embarrassing attitude that things were better in the old days with the old ways, etc…This is the lazy thinking of armchair get-a- lifers…I like your website, but please don’t peddle is such petty, bitchy things.

    • justsaying says:

      Always fascinating when the idea some particular thing was done better at some other time can be dismissed with terms like “embarrassing attitude” and “lazy thinking.” But since you’re presumably not an “armchair get-a-lifer” maybe you can help clear up the widespread impression that pre-1920 operas are being performed more often, and appreciated more by the opera-interested public, than later ones. I mean, that can’t be true, right? It would be lazy blah-blah to suppose that there might be something better in them, surely. We’ve obviously been embarrassingly mis-reading the season announcements – maybe you can help out with some statistics here?
      (OK please pardon the sarcasm, but … to put it in a more direct way, your sloppy argumentation is just as irritating as the “maven’s” hyperbolic language, and for much the same reason.)

      • Charles Brink says:

        “pre-1920 operas are being performed more often, and appreciated more by the opera-interested public, than later ones”

        Right, pre-1920 operas turn up much much much more often on schedules than post-1920 ones….i full admit my argumentation maybe sloppy but what does the fact that older operas get more performances have to do with my argumentation? I never said modern operas are more compelling or more performed or better or anything like that. The “maven” on Youtube used clips of previous generations of opera singers to prove his point about Seguin’s incompetence. The Maven’s cherry- picking of certain points misconstrued Seguins statements in his masterclass. He was accused by this Maven of ruining voices! Its ludicrous. The glorification of the past with the implication that nothing (singers, singing technique, conductors, etc…) today is as good is fact lazy and terrible uninformed. I was irritated that Mr Lebrecht posted this bitchy, tiresome takedown of the conductor right after he said he didn’t like anonymous sources.

        • justsaying says:

          I guess I’m just saying that if you agree (as you seem to) that opera as a whole was in, let’s say, a stronger period at that time – then it seems strange to dismiss out of hand the idea that there might be something to learn from the way it was being sung in that period. I agree the “maven” exaggerates and is gratuitously insulting, but I don’t think that invalidates the point, and I DO think (on the basis of plenty of experience beyond watching a video) that YNS is being correctly represented by the excerpts shown. It’s not clear to me how dumping on the “maven,” whoever it is, for presumably lacking a career of his or her own, contributes to understanding of the issue at hand.

    • Novagerio says:

      I agree with Mr.Brink. If this Jeremy Silver is such a Besserwisser and such a “maven”, then where’s his own career?

      • Saxon Broken says:

        I think the fact that Jeremy Silver did not have a great career as a singer is irrelevant. Even if someone doesn’t sing well, he *might* know how to train someone to sing well, and what constitutes good technique.

  • Carl says:

    I’ll leave it to others more qualified to debate the merits of the underlying artistic argument. But the claims by this anonymous critic — “ruining her voice,” “never listened to a recording more than 20 years old,” etc. — come off as over-the-top and almost silly. So I would be surprised if this person is not someone bearing a big personal axe to grind.

  • 16VA says:

    Non-singers have no business giving vocal master-classes.

  • SMH says:

    Stop promoting anonymous stuff.

  • Edgar says:

    Thanks for posting, Norman. Though I am neither a singer nor a conductor but only an amateur opera lover, having watched the video I come away thinking its creator makes some very important points.

    Interesting detail: Yannick was born in 1975 – the year Jim Levine became the MET’s music director. With Jim gone from the scene, the loss of this source of stupendous experience and knowledge has yet to be fully acknowledged and only will become clear in the decades ahead.

    In an age during which it is technically easily possible to reach back a century to hear the voices of the past, it strikes me as odd how the music director of a (no longer the) major opera house in the world appears to not have taken time (and/or interest?) in immersing himself in this veritable treasure trove.

    As for Yannick and the MET: “Weisst du, wie das wird….?”

    Nuff said.

    • Charles Brink says:

      Too mich said, not ’nuff said

    • Yes Addison says:

      There was as much atrocious singing in Levine’s time at the Met as there was in any era. Some of it came from singers very closely associated with Levine, ones he insisted upon for new productions and even guided in their careers. It’s too early for a historical rewrite, and I doubt that the chest-voice fetishist who made the video would consider alumni of the Lindemann program exceptions to the modern rule.

  • Elly says:

    Maestro, you are a fine conductor not a voice teacher. In that area, by your own admission, you have only completely uninformed information about the voice.
    That is rather dangerous to young singers.
    In a master class, teach what you know.
    That alone will be invaluable.

  • Graham wright says:

    This is a ludercrous attack. Should never have been printed. What does it achieve

  • Hamilton says:

    The man behind this account “Mister Opera” is a tiresome fool with astonishingly dubious credentials – as in a big fat zero. If I’m recall correctly, someone on his Youtube page challenged him to a debate about some of his views and asked him what his experience and qualifications are (a quick Google reveals the embarrassing truth), but of course he declined, as any kind of scrutiny of his clinical insanity might lead to a very obvious, public unravelling. He praises singers as faultless examples of their art, turning a blind eye (or ear to be more appropriate) to the toe-curling faults invariably evidenced in live recordings, for example Milanov’s wayward pitch and appalling coloratura (her Norma was a train-wreck), Tebaldi’s penchant for going flat and screaming whenever she hit a b or higher. He’s also a proponent of voice-wrecking use of chest as the answer to everything, primarily because he adheres to the writing of a voice teacher who has produced no one of any notable talent. All the while bashing great singers and their techniques and damning anyone who doesn’t fit his flawed viewpoint of vocal excellence.

    These pseudo-experts are incredibly damaging people, because they take their partisan beliefs which are backed up with no rigorous education, and seek via selected clips to demonstrate their opinion as a truth. It’s fake news represented for the digestion of unthinking opera fans. He ignores the longevity issues of the prime of the singers he adores and uses information in a selective and suspicious manner to reinforce his opinion by attacking those who he does not like. Shame on you Norman for giving such a charlatan the oxygen of publicity. Random unqualified lunatics seem to be the act du jour.

    • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

      I don’t know his credentials but I have to disagree with you about the content of his posts. He’s nasty but he knows how to sing well and he’s absolutely right about how recording technology has sapped the art of opera-singing by enabling singers with small instruments and poor projection to record roles way to big and loud for them. See my longer comment elsewhere on this thread. Watching his videos has improved my own singing a great deal.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        The recording industry doesn’t determine who sings in the major opera houses…singers barely make any money from opera recordings these days: all the money is in live performance.

        The truth is that opera houses have always struggled to find enough good voices that were loud enough to be heard in the major houses. There were lots of mediocre performances in the past, even from major stars. Comparing a few stand-out recordings from history with the average of today is just plain silly.

    • Novagerio says:

      You should know how many there are of such “mavens” in Italy; in Milano they are the feared “Loggione” or Claque. They are there only to ruin anything that is not to their liking. Even Carlos Kleiber got a taste of that in 1976.
      When Muti had a televised show, he simply locked the Loggione (the Gallery) and kept the troublemakers away.

      And yes, as it has already been mentioned here a couple of times, the Claque are usually frustrated anonymous nobodies.

      • Mimì says:

        Are Claques not often paid to cheer in the audience of La Scala? There have been reports of artists who turned down such bribes and were booed in retaliation.

  • CGDA says:

    People are not experts in everything, but if one is a ‘star’ opera conductor one should be expected to have studied singing. There are conductors who lead school, music college and community choirs with more vocal knowledge than Seguin and many like him.

    • Hmus says:

      You seem to think that YNS came out of nowhere and jumped right onto the Met? Among other things, he studied choral conducting with Flummerfeldt at the Westmister Choir college, so he is hardly unfamiliar with the human voice, certainly more so than any high-school choir director.

    • V.Lind says:

      YNS studied choral conducting at Westminster Choir College in Princeton. He was chorus master, assistant conductor and music adviser of the Opera de Montreal for four years early in his career. His discography includes plenty vocal music, and he made his ROH debut almost 10 years ago. He is hardly without training, or experience, in vocal music.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        While that is true, he also mostly made his reputation conducting symphony concerts. Compared to someone who came up through the traditional route in Germany (in small opera houses) he really does not have much experience. The contrast with, say Solti, is quite striking.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Like “Hamilton” above, I dislike Zinka Milanov’s “Casta diva”, but her “Suicidio” from Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda” is another matter, with a beautiful upward octave portamento. Like every soprano I’ve heard, she has to sing “Soo-ee-chEYE-dee-oh” on the high note.

    The two arias are both on Victor’s 1945 shellac.

    A confession: “Casta diva” is a dull aria for me, the fioritura ungraceful. Does anyone sing it well? Maybe Claudia Muzio? I tend to blame Donizetti and am always glad when it’s over.

  • CGDA says:

    Opera is jeopardised by agencies, the star system and lack of rehearsing. Even if conductors were excellent, one cannot put together complex works with a few rehearsals. Professional musicians know the difference of excellent performances and under-rehearsed work.

  • Jack says:

    I’m disappointed that you would post allegations about a prominent musician that came from an anonymous source.

  • Inez Russell says:

    The golden rule in classical singing is to try and sing with an even tone throughout which is something he suggests is not good or no longer acceptable. Really ???????

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    Well, I’ve watched quite a lot of this guy’s YouTube videos. He calls himself “This is opera” or “Mister Opera”. He can be nasty and condescending, but I have to say: EVERYTHING (well, ALMOST everything) he says about voice-production is correct and insightful. This guy knows the physiology and anatomy of the voice– how to lower the larynx and widen the base of the larynx to make your resonant cavity large and your voice full and rich; how to keep the back of the tongue forward to stop it from crimping your air-column, how to move plenty of air, how to avoid making your resonance cavity small and thin when singing the “ee” vowel (which is a notorious choker). (Notice when he says that thing about singing ON THE VOWELS; that’s pure gold.) And, he knows how to teach (mostly, see below for an exception), and he’s absolutely right about how modern recording technology has damaged opera by making it possible for singers with small, chamber-level instruments to record roles written for gigantic thunderers. Like, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recording the Dutchman and Iago and Hans Sachs, which he (DFD) should never even have THOUGHT about trying to sing. So now we have singers who simply don’t learn how to sing big or maximize their output, and we have Papageno-sized voices trying to sing Amfortas and Boris Godunov, all relying on electronic amplification and differential miking rather than on vocal prowess, focus, and good technique.

    Mister Opera also knows a huge number of nearly-forgotten singers from the distant past, singers I would never have known or heard without him.

    (NOTE: I occasionally have a quibble with Mister Opera’s comments about TEACHING. He objects to teachers saying things like “flip the voice out of the top of your head” or “place the sound in the back of the concert hall, behind the audience”. Mister Opera ridicules teachers who use this kind of metaphorical talk in lessons, but the point of saying something like that is to help a student who is singing with his/her voice stuck in his/her throat relax and let it go. You can’t often accomplish that– you can’t get a tense student to relax simply by talking about anatomy and technique; you have to say something which will stimulate the singer to sing differently from how he/she has been singing, and then have him/her notice the difference in the experience and try to get him to remember how the relaxed singing FEELS so that he can reproduce it next time he has unwanted tension. But other than these kinds of occasional pedogogical quibbles, I find Mister Opera more helpful to my understanding and to my own singing than anyone else I’ve found on YouTube.)

    • Novagerio says:

      MisterThwrownoutoftheKremlin: Allow me to diasgree with you on one point: Fischer-Dieskau was not a “regular Papageno”. His voice was in fact large and superbly well projected. Then of course, you don’t need to actually like his Sachs or Dutchman.

  • Bruce says:

    Whoever this guy is, as far as I can tell he’s willfully misinterpreting YNS’s musical advice (you don’t have to bellow just because it’s a low note) and pretending that he’s trying to teach vocal technique.

    I skipped ahead to see if we might hear what it sounded like when the original singer tried taking YNS’s advice, just to see what that low note would sound like if it wasn’t bellowed. I missed that, if it happened, and landed on the “diction trick.” There, he takes YNS’s insistence on a pronounced double “R” (double consonants are held longer than single ones) in the middle of a word, and contrasts it with Callas’s advice on pronouncing a single “R” at the end of a word. (Even if Callas is talking about the R in the middle of “morir,” it’s still a single R.)

    “Qui Radames verra” should not sound like “Qui Radames vera.”

    Seems pretty clear to me that the guy (and I say “guy” because rabid opera fanaticism of this type is pretty much exclusively a gay male activity; if women get this obsessed — with opera, anyway — they don’t tend to spew it onto the internet) has some kind of obsession. It’s not uncommon for someone to be “normal” until a certain topic comes up, and then they are no longer rational. I don’t know if this guy’s problem is with YNS in particular or younger conductors in general — and obviously I have no idea what he’s like talking about other things — but on this topic he’s clearly not quite sane.

    • Rontano says:

      Rolled “r”s are not quite ricocheted, merely more pronounced or caressed than a single “r” … I, too, find them frequently over exaggerated (as Yannick’s example) which gives away the foreign/non-Italian singer.

  • justsaying says:

    “MisterOpera” has only himself to blame if people attack him for intemperate screeds and one-sided descriptions, and several commenters here seem to think that’s the best way to deal with the matter. But which is more important, the manners of an anonymous YouTuber, or the competence of an influential institutional leader? In this case, the ill-mannered would-be Jeremiah remains right and the well-behaved, congenial star remains wrong.

    One can rationalize away some of what YNS says, but only by determined effort. He actually seems to believe, and to act on, the starting premise about “Come scoglio.” And that really is a representative failure of certain recent trends in singing that he seems willing to worsen.

    That part of the voice is “weak” the same way left-hand scales are “messy” and fifth-position notes are “out of tune.” In other words – until you learn to do them right, which ought to be expected of professionals. (All the worse that he is expounding this stuff to a student actually prepared to do it right!)

    And all the “less sound,” “more breathy” comments – again, one could rationalize these away individually, and sure, there are arguably valid character points associated with them (which might well be pursued within legit vocal technique). But there is an unmistakable tendency here. Less like a play, more like a movie. Less like opera, more like pop. Bad direction to go.

  • Webster Young says:

    As a former opera company artistic director, I am very glad to see this video being discussed. In the last masterclass I attended, at a major music festival, I watched a quite well known stage- director/ artistic director give totally wrong vocal interpretation directions (for La Boheme Act I), also touching on breathing and phrasing, also ignoring the composer’s hints at what to do, to a young lyric soprano from Japan with an absolutely gorgeous voice for Mimi. To me it shows how the opera world can be a jungle for developing singers- and how they can run into wrong direction. It also shows how opera companies need to be careful to preserve the best traditions in singing. The video and its author have been criticized for being anonymous, yet it is good to see this discussion in the light of the great singers.

  • Webster Young says:

    A further point about the video above (from my point of view as a former opera company director) – The Maestro NS’s idea on come scoglio may be a good one for a specific production, in that if he wants the singer to sound ” more afraid”, a weak low note might be a good idea if it can still be heard. A very strong low note makes the singer sound like she is all ready for battle (which also may be good). I might even guess that Maestro NS has always objected to this specific “misinterpretation” in his eyes. To me the problem is selling this interpretation idea as a series of generalities (the weakest part of the voice, comments on even-ness throughout the ranges, etc) – and in a masterclass to a young singer. The generalizations are what are attacked by the maker of the video. Yet the Maestro’s idea might be a good one in a specific interpretation of the libretto (that may be better than ever before) and in a specific production. In my view, that is where the idea might be sold…but here in a masterclass, it is open to criticism based on the tradition.

  • Actual opera singer says:

    I hate having to waste my day explaining the voice to hacks and amateurs…
    Point 1: Mr N-S is quite correct in trying to get this young soprano to take the vocal weight out of her lower register. Across the phrase there is so much superglottic pressure on the low notes- (probably an attempt to imitate singers of old- and sound more ‘operatic’, before the voice is ready) that it cripples the rest of the musical line, so she has no resonant space through the middle register, as the mechanism changes function.
    People talk about registers as if they are completely separate things. They are simply a function of the vocal mechanism. Tilting or stretching. EVERYTHING else is space= resonance.
    To try to force young singers to sing ‘big like the old days’, would result in careers lasting 5 minutes.
    point 2: older recordings favour frequencies around the speaking/chest register. (that’s why tenors recorded so well, and why the earliest recordings were more often of music hall songs). It’s not necessarily that they were singing so much bigger down there, but rather that the technology could pick it up much better.
    video conclusion 2: sopranos are stronger in their speaking register? Maybe the speaking register is stronger in many amateur sopranos. But none that I’ve ever worked with on a stage. The speaking register is stronger in amateur sopranos because they use it more. It gets more exercise. They speak more than they sing. That is simply not true of those that make their career singing on opera stages.
    Tenuous video point on diction: these are two very different phrases. The callas demonstration obviously is a huge expression of passion and drama. In the masterclass version, Mr N-S only wants her to distinguish between vera- meaning true, and verrà – meaning it will come. Diction is important, and totally separate to the expression Callas is talking about. Perhaps the video poster should be paying more attention in Italian class, instead of making youtube videos.
    Lastly – the baritone- It doesn’t show the baritone singing the line, but i’m guessing- classic young baritone in this aria, it was a very focussed and ‘sung’ entry. By asking for it to be more ‘breathy’, he’s only trying to take the blade off the entry, so it sounds more like ‘i don’t believe it’, than ‘I DON”T BELIEVE IT!!!!’ and gives the singer somewhere to go dramatically, in a long, angry aria. There is no good singer that would actually sing it ‘breathy’, but by giving them that idea, it’ll persuade a little more space into the lower pharynx, and give a more rounded sound – most good teachers would suggest the same to an over-focussed young baritone.
    This video is sad. Not just because of the content, but because of how many people believe it, and accept it. Yes, there were great singers of the past. But that shouldn’t diminish what is happening now. And to hold their best work up against advice for students, with much still to learn, is absurd.
    The willingness by some to believe this video, without question, just because it’s tearing down someone young, in authority, is a sad reflection of us as a society. They are as easily “led by the nose as asses are”. They love a good outcry, a scandal! Drama queens- no longer found on the stage, but in the comments…

    • Yes Addison says:

      Your analysis of the issues raised by the video is outstanding, Actual opera singer.

      Re: “just because it’s tearing down someone young, in authority…” He isn’t even that young. He might be younger than his critics on Slipped Disc and YouTube, but he’s 44. At that age, Karajan was in his Philharmonia and Bayreuth period; Bernstein had written major works, conducted premieres of those by other composers, and was in the midst of his NYPO Mahler cycle; Muti was about to take over La Scala and had been in Philadelphia for five years; Levine had been in charge of the Met for more than a decade…what significant conductor WASN’T already a big deal by 44?

      Animus based on Nézet-Séguin’s chronological age, and the business about a person in his mid-40s not having paid dues, makes no sense and has no basis in music history. I can only assume it’s a case of seniors having decided that other seniors should be running everything, now that they have become seniors themselves. “The younger people we have now aren’t as good as the younger people we used to have.”

      • justsaying says:

        having gotten into this conversation, i feel i should at least help keep it on track. You are 100% right that all or nearly all significant conductors have been significant by the time they are YNS’s age, and ready for big responsibilities. But beware ascribing animus to people who see things differently, because it might blind you to the possibility that you’re missing something. The key issue is in the statement you put in quotes at the end (I’m guessing you regard it as parody). Is its assertion valid or invalid? There is actually some lively doubt on that point – and not just from “seniors.” The solution doesn’t come from keeping seniors in charge – they’re the ones who got us to this state of affairs – the solution has to come from the generation *after* YNS realizing what’s been going wrong.

    • Justsaying says:

      Dear actual opera singer – I completely believe that you’re sincere, and – it kind of confirms why so many are worried. If you think vocal technique in general in the opera world today is at a level comparable to what it has been in the past, I hope very much you’ll join the growing numbers who are informing themselves on that topic. The rising generation really needs to take stock, because things that used to be standard skills are now being treated as special qualities of a few lucky individuals. (Ps I can’t speak for everyone commenting here, but I know at least a few are veterans of hundreds of performances in big theaters – there may well be some “hacks” too but you’re making a pretty limiting assumption.)

      • Actual opera singer says:

        I know there were excellent singers in the past. I’ve said exactly that. But it’s a societal disease to glorify the past. The idea that everything was somehow better back then (Brexit thinking). And then to hold up a handful of the best recordings to demonstrate it. I’m sure, if you cherry-picked more recent recordings you end up with some pretty good stuff. Singers of the past, while glorious at their best weren’t perfect – there’s a wonderful recording of Caruso cracking terribly, or a video of Callas completely out of tune at La Scala.
        Good singers work exceptionally hard to hone their craft. We listen to everything available. Read everything we can soak in. To suggest otherwise is just insulting.

        • justsaying says:

          I’m gonna keep trying here, because it seems as though you feel attacked (or “insulted”) by a suggestion that was not meant that way. May I try an analogy? Do you feel, in general, that the number and quality of successful operas is pretty much identical in the period from 1980 to now as in the period between 1880 and 1919? Just arbitrary dates there, but – my question is, supposing you might think that the 1880-to-1919 period was stronger in the opera field, are you delivering an insult to the composers who are doing their best now? Are you spreading a “societal disease”? Of course, I don’t mean to assume that you DO think that period was stronger – but it seems as though the opera houses and record companies think so. Maybe it’s not insulting but potentially helpful and even inspiring to study art wherever you find it at its best, and letting that study inform what we do going forward, without pre-determining that it’s an insult if it happens to light on one period or another.

          • Actual opera singer says:

            I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you’re banging on about. The ‘insult’ I referred to was the idea that modern singers (or conductors) don’t listen to, and try to learn from the best singers of the past. No matter what era they inhabited. Opera singers spend around 10+ years studying just that before they get near a big stage, and try to emulate the best of it.
            But memories are fickle. How do you think this era will be remembered? How will Netrebko, Di Donato, Kauffman be remembered? Chances are, time will smooth any rough edges, recordings will be glorified, and people will talk about their glory days, and play their masterclasses on repeat as the gold standard of opera knowledge.
            “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”…

          • justsaying says:

            k no prob, just thought it was worth a try. If those singers are remembered the way you imagine, everybody will be happy! (Though there will probably be somebody to call it a societal disease if they wind up being preferred to whatever comes next….fingers crossed….)

          • Nicholas Ennos says:

            Nellie Melba wrote that singing well is easy and singing badly is very difficult. Modern opera singers take 10 years to learn their very difficult craft.

        • Nijinsky says:

          Wow glorifying the past is a social disease. How objective. So anyone pointing out that losing a football field’s worth of forest every second, of missing an ocean free of plastic, of believing in global warming, of going to a store and ever being able to buy something that grows out of the good mother earth rather than a brand name connected to a corporation and globalization is just glorifying the past, a social disease. Oh we’re much improved, especially thanks to everything that’s suppressed that would interfere with the corporations preventing this glorifying the past. And what we hear on the news too. Anyone not playing that game is of course glorifying the past, and it’s a social disease. Should be in the DSM.

          I don’t agree with the technical statements in the video at all, and I had noticed the same thing a couple of months ago when I stumbled upon one, how older recordings also bring that heady chest sound, which is in the technology then. I don’t know exactly why it’s that way other than tube microphones were in use, which actually take in more of the overtone series, but don’t have the sterile clarity of circuit microphones. But many of the recordings shared are even older than that. But I do think we’ve lost a quantity of artistry as well as simple singing ability. The kind of product so many singers make out of themselves, and herald that along with the media attention they might get, that’s to me destroying the kind of integrity we used to have just a generation or so ago with singers like Elly Ameling and Renata Tebaldi. And when so many current singers herald being a product and the game theory it entails to maintain it as some kind of moral statement, it further elucidates the loss of artistry. The point also being that people are conned into judging anyone not going along with such game theory, and if I or anyone simply point that out we’re supposedly judging others (the ikons, the media images) rather than not going along with judging. Some things of the past are worth commemorating, one of them being the art of singing. I certainly don’t see modern singers surpassing the artistry of the past.

          And we’re talking about singers of the past, not old men’s hair products anyone is glorifying. Some things of the past of worth it. https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/your-grandpas-hair-products-5-old-school-hair-grooms-to-give-you-that-cary-grant-shine/

          and justsaying just made a completely valid point you totally ditched. In the olden days there were a whole lot more operas put on, as well as interest for new music, and so many of the operas that are still performed blossomed out of that interest, and were nurtured. There simply was more nurturing of the art of singing and opera. To state that it’s a social disease to wish there still was that kind of interest is simply abusive. It’s real easy to fabricate such diagnosis of people, even someone like the poster of the videos, and yet despite his inability to really make valid technical points he is pointing out how interest in opera and the art of singing has plummeted QUITE a bit.

          Making references to social diseases won’t change that.

        • Nijinsky says:

          Actual Opera Singer, I did want to thank you for clearing up what Y N was trying to point out. These discussions here get so all over the place (and now I added to that with my prior post, so let’s just leave that be, of course it’s irritating when someone misrepresents the past, but he isn’t really even glorifying it in misrepresenting it). In nervously skimming over, looking at the video, I couldn’t tell whether J N was trying to say there was something wrong with how Mozart wrote a piece that would require being able to navigate whole distances in the voice, which only is possible does someone know how to do that without creating tension. And then he demonstrates how not to do that, and I thought the was criticizing the way it was written.
          That poor singer seems to be trying to create a certain sound the whole time, rather than having learned how to really let nature take it’s course to navigate through the voice and the phrase, and what the guy on the video is typing onto the screen seems to go against what he’s advertising, because a good chest sound would come from not having forced the voice, and a relaxed chest not: “HEAR THIS IT’S MY CHEST VOICE.”

          I don’t understand it. When a person isn’t breathing properly, when their upper palate isn’t raised, when they haven’t created the basic smile to bring everything in alignment (you can’t chest breath when smiling, try it once and the upper palate raises), without starting there to create resonance there’s not really a starting point. And the way that the epigastrium muscles lift then is where you start to build up support. That also maybe brings into resonance the higher resonance of the voice beyond the speaking voice, but by building those up is how the chest voice gains strength. You’re actually building up a resonance (a resonance, the architecture of resonance, the tree of vibrations the vocal cords put into play) harmonics way beyond the vocal range way up high which is how the voice projects, vibrations so high that they resonate more with the whole range, because of their frequency (6 as a higher number resonance with both 2 and 3 wave patterns a time interval for example, and that builds more and more the higher you go). Also a Stradivari Violin, or a Del Gesu, if you look inside, and see how the graduation of the wood is, you will notice that there’s also that lift, being that a violin resembles the human body. Where the sound post is, and the wood is thicker, like the part of the body with the vital organs, there is a lift towards that part that would correlate with the epigastrium muscles being lifted. And it’s in yoga, a Filipino healer that has helped people shed stuff the medical profession says isn’t possible said the same thing about smiling, you do it when you look at a beautiful painting, a sunset, when you let go of things in life to feel a higher resonance that sorts things out.

          That’s what I think anyhow. My voice teacher, who had to do a lot of repair work, and it took my years and years after that to get rid of emotional tension on my own, but it was those basic principles that allowed all of that to happens, but my voice teacher had been asked to teach at Yale, and he said no. He didn’t think you could teach someone to sing a song if they didn’t have the basic resonance of singing yet, and you can’t necessarily teach that in a semester, which at the end requires a jury with a song.

          I find there’s a lot of fussing while neglecting the most basic things of how to sing.

    • Mr Michael Gioiello says:

      I am an actual opera singer and I disagree with everything you have said

    • Michael Garcia says:

      “Yes there were great singers in the past” Have you really listened ?

  • Edgar Self says:

    Thanks to Bruce and Bellini himself for correcting my gaffe.. I’m now busy blaming Bellini for “Cast diva”.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    What would Stefan Zucker say?

  • ralph says:

    Seguin is just another over-hyped mediocrity. Most conductors these days are mediocre but not many getting the media and hype that he does.

  • Nothanks notoday says:

    Moron. Couldn’t even get a minute in. Ruining opera.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Aaaannnnd it quickly devolves into ad hominems and contradiction and….

    This post has done *exactly* what it was meant to do: pull in a bunch of traffic to Slippedisc over the weekend, when trade is often down for many websites. Yay.

    That said….. while I think Yannick N-S *is* a pretty talented orchestral conductor, I found his appointment to the MET a bid odd, and frankly, I am surprised to see him conducting master class for singers! He does have some choral/vocal experience, including 4 years at the Opera de Montreal, but I would not expect him to be anybody’s go-to guy for teaching vocal technique.

    But as somebody pointed out above, given the vocal problems that shortened her career, maybe Callas isn’t the best source of vocal advice either.

    Whatever the case, this has been interesting!

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I agree with your comments. I actually think YNS is a very good conductor indeed, but that he hasn’t a great deal of experience in conducting opera singers.

    • Michael Garcia says:

      Choral Singing is all about blending and not sticking out- The opposite of Opera Singing

  • Tamino says:

    Zeitgeist. No depth. No aspirational struggle and hard fought for achievement. Just hot air, superficiality, ‘fun’ and bla bla.
    We reap what we sow.

  • John says:

    Norman spreading fringe theories again…Further proof that SD is the Brietbart of the classical world.
    Clearly the creator of this video was taking Yannick’s words out of context. Sure, you can criticize him for his weak register comment if you take it from a purely vocal, non-musical context. But Yannick is a musician and anyone who’s worked under him (as I have) can tell you that he’s an exceptional musician and certainly knows his history and older recordings.

  • Barry H Mann says:

    So address the points with facts not accusations and veiled-in-secrecy innuendo. The whining smells of sour grapes. Attend a performance he conducts and watch his sensitivity to the needs of a singer who is acting.

  • Mr Michael Gioiello says:

    I’m sorry to say, but although he may be an excellent conductor, he really does not seem to understand singing technique or bel canto technique. At the same time, he is human and none of us are perfect.